The Hand of Ethelberta HTML version

31. Knollsea - A Lofty Down - A Ruined
Knollsea was a seaside village lying snug within two
headlands as between a finger and thumb. Everybody in the
parish who was not a boatman was a quarrier, unless he
were the gentleman who owned half the property and had
been a quarryman, or the other gentleman who owned the
other half, and had been to sea.
The knowledge of the inhabitants was of the same special
sort as their pursuits. The quarrymen in white fustian
understood practical geology, the laws and accidents of dips,
faults, and cleavage, far better than the ways of the world
and mammon; the seafaring men in Guernsey frocks had a
clearer notion of Alexandria, Constantinople, the Cape, and
the Indies than of any inland town in their own country. This,
for them, consisted of a busy portion, the Channel, where
they lived and laboured, and a dull portion, the vague
unexplored miles of interior at the back of the ports, which
they seldom thought of.
Some wives of the village, it is true, had learned to let
lodgings, and others to keep shops. The doors of these latter
places were formed of an upper hatch, usually kept open,
and a lower hatch, with a bell attached, usually kept shut.
Whenever a stranger went in, he would hear a whispering of
astonishment from a back room, after which a woman came
forward, looking suspiciously at him as an intruder, and
advancing slowly enough to allow her mouth to get clear of
the meal she was partaking of. Meanwhile the people in the
back room would stop their knives and forks in absorbed
curiosity as to the reason of the stranger's entry, who by this
time feels ashamed of his unwarrantable intrusion into this
hermit's cell, and thinks he must take his hat off. The woman